Claudette Colvin was just 15 years old when she refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama on March 2, 1955. She was arrested and taken to jail. This event occurred just nine months before infamous Rosa Parks’ act of resistance. Now 79 years old, Claudette remembers the event vividly.
"I didn’t get up and stand up. I just sat there. When people ask me why I didn’t get up and move, I tell them history had me glued to the seat. Emotionally, it felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth was pushing me down on the other,” – Claudette Colvin
98-year-old Evelyn Witkin is a retired American geneticist. Her discovery of radiation-resistant mutants set the bar for future geneticists. She founded the coordinated cellular response, known as the SOS response to DNA damage, and how E. coli generates mutations in response to UV irradiation. It was the first coordinated stress response to be explained. In 2002, she was awarded the National Medal of Science for her work on DNA mutagenesis and DNA repair.
“If I had a couple of million dollars to build a lab in my basement, I would have gone on. E. coli still has lots of secrets!” – Evelyn Witkin
Let’s commemorate Claudette and Evelyn as we continue to observe not so familiar women during Women’s History Month!